A mom who lost her child tragically selflessly pumped and donated 33 liters of breast milk to other premature and struggling newborns-all in the memory of her daughter. Alexis Marrino, 22, from South Dakota’s Rapid City area, was devastated when she discovered that her child had the anencephaly killer deficiency and either died an hour after her birth.

Alexis Marrino, 22, lost their daughter McKinleigh to anencephaly, a condition which affects the development of the spinal cord and brain

But the 22-year-old, who had always planned to breastfeed her child, decided to pump her breast milk until she came back to work seven weeks later so she could donate to needy premature babies. A series of emotional images show a proud Alexis posing before the hundreds of dairy bottles she’s made.

Following the diagnosis, Alexis agonized over whether to abort her baby, but eventually decided that she would give birth because she desperately wanted ‘just to hold her’. Baby McKinleigh Marrino was born on July 29 2019 and lived for just one hour and 10 minutes, during which Alexis and her husband Michael Marrino, 25, got to hold and cuddle their daughter.

The bereaved mother started pumping her breast milk the very next day, and claims she found the process ’emotional’, but felt ‘very lucky’ to be able to do so. Alexis said: ‘When I found out I was pregnant, I actually always wanted to breastfeed or at least use my breast milk for my own children.

‘I figured I had already planned on using it, so I might as well donate it. At first, it was emotional, pumping breast milk after losing my baby. It was stressful and frustrating. ‘But eventually, after a few weeks, it became the norm. I don’t know if pumping helped to process my emotions, but I know I was one of the luckier women.

McKinleigh, sadly picture shorty after her death, motivated her mother to give her breast milk to other mothers, in her memory

‘A lot of women have issues pumping after they lose a child and I didn’t really have any issues as far as depression and things like that. ‘I just had to remind myself who I was doing it for and that got me through it. It is going to premature babies and babies who have difficulties when they are born.

‘I believe I pumped 1,130 ounces in the end. I was shocked when I counted it all. ‘People keep telling me it will help a lot of babies. I am proud of how much I managed to pump. ‘A part of me wishes I could have kept doing it because it feels like there’s a part of me missing because I did it for so long. I am so glad that I did it though.’

Alexis and her husband Michael Marrino, 25, had been thrilled when they found out they were going to have a baby shortly before Christmas last year, with the mother-to-be knowing she would breastfeed her baby. But when she found out that there was no brain activity at her 20-week scan, Alexis was referred to a specialist who confirmed that McKinleigh had anencephaly, a neural tube defect.

The rare cephalic disorder occurs in about 3 pregnancies in every 10,000 in the United State, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  After she was born, the heartbroken parents spent several hours with their daughter until Alexis felt ready to let her go.

Alexis, who works as a supervisor, said: ‘They gave me some options at first. They said I could terminate my pregnancy or continue on, either one. ‘They gave us ideas of what we wanted. In my mind I was like, yes, I want to terminate. My initial thought was how could I continue on when I already know what the outcome is going to be.

‘Then I decided I wanted to see her and hold her so I decided to continue on with the pregnancy. ‘It was shocking to meet her. I thought she would have different features. She definitely looks like her dad more than me. ‘It was a really precious hour and ten minutes. She was very warm and soft so I was glad that I got to hold her. ‘She was alive for an hour and ten minutes and we kept her for a few hours after that and then I finally decided to let her go so we didn’t keep her too long.’


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